Long before Souq (now Amazon) and Yahoo's Maktoob were founded, a number of pioneers in the business industry kicked off in the Middle East, marking a major change in the way the business industry operates.
These companies have maintained operations and continuous growth for years. Of course, not all success stories can fit in a list, but here's a compilation of some of the oldest companies in the MENA region:
1. House of Alireza (1845)
Founded in 1845 by Zainal Alireza, House of Alireza is one of Saudi Arabia's oldest commercial enterprise. It initially started as a food and textile importer but later expanded to include real estate and the acquisition of agencies of the shopping lines that carried these commodities.
2. Binzagr (1881)
Founded in Saudi Arabia, Binzagr is among the largest and leading distributors in the kingdom specializing in the distribution and logistics of a wide range of consumer products. These include food and drinks, personal items, beauty care, home care, and even automotive tires.
3. Bonjus (1962)
One of the leading beverage and ice cream producers in Lebanon, you'd probably recognize Bonjus' infamous three-sided pyramid juice box. It is one of the most recognized brands in Lebanon, making its mark following the release of its extensive juice line in the '60s.
The brand introduced ice cream in the late '60s and then its own dairy line in the '70s.
4. Aramex (1982)
After discussions with his business partner, Bill Kingston, Jordanian Fadi Ghandour co-founded Arab American Express — the first courier business in the Middle East. When the company first started out, it began operations in Amman, Jordan. Two years later, the company's name was shortened to Aramex.
5. Juhayna (1983)
Founded by Safwan Thabet, Juhayna is Egypt's leading dairy and juice producer, specializing in the production, processing and packaging of milk, yogurt, juice, and juice concentrates.
6. Bhatia Brothers (1957)
Founded by one of the first merchant families to bridge and expand business relations between India and the Gulf, Bhatia Brothers initially handled agencies of well-known manufacturers of automobile parts, accessories, and auxiliaries.
Nowadays, with their headquarters in Dubai, their focus ranges from distribution to construction, to manufacturing. They also have a presence across different parts of the world including Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, India, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and the UK.
7. National Bank of Egypt (1898)
The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) is the oldest and largest bank in Egypt. It has 338 branches within the country.
8. Middle East Airlines (1945)
Having launched its first service in Beirut to the neighboring cities of Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, MEA is now a global airline. This was made possible after its merger with Air Liban.
9. Etisalat (1976)
When Emirates Telecommunication Corporation was first founded, it was a joint-stock company between International Aeradio Limited and local partners. A major indicator of the company's network growth and development was the tremendous increase in the number of exchange lines from 36,000 in 1976 to 737,000 in 1998.
Currently, Etisalat operates in 15 countries across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In 2012, Etisalat was named the most powerful company in the UAE by Forbes Middle East.
10. Gulf Air (1950)
In the late 1940s, a British pilot and entrepreneur, Freddie Bosworth began an air taxi service to Doha and Dhahran from Bahrain. He later expanded services and registered Gulf Aviation Company Limited as a private shareholding company, making its current operating company, Gulf Air, one of the oldest carriers in the Middle East.
11. El Rashidi El Mizan (1889)
El Rashidi El Mizan was established in Cairo as a small family business and has turned into the leading confectionery producer in the MENA region.
12. Azadea (1978)
Today's Azadea Group grew out of a single clothing store called Subway that was opened at the heart of Beirut by Wassim Daher. A few years after it opened, they won their first international franchise, MaxMara.
With over 12,000 employees, Azadea now boasts more than 600 stores in more than a dozen countries.
13. Emirates (1985)
The Dubai-based carrier Emirates is considered to be the world's largest international airline, with a network that spans 159 destinations in 85 countries. It also operates one of the world's youngest wide-body fleets made up of Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft.
14. Americana Group (1964)
Founded in Kuwait, Americana Group has grown into one of the largest corporations in the MENA region. Americana Group's main lines of business include operating food and beverage outlets, as well as manufacturing food products.
15. Royal Jordanian (1963)
The flag carrier airline of Jordan, Royal Jordanian operates scheduled international services over four continents from its main base at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. The airline was established after a royal decree by the late King Hussein, where it was initially called Alia, after his eldest child.
16. Arab Bank (1930)
Arab Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East, having been founded in Palestine. After the British Mandate Authority withdrew from Palestine in 1948, the Bank lost its branches in Jafa and Haifa. The company is now headquartered in Amman, where it's officially a public shareholding company.
17. Zain (1983)
This mobile telecommunications company founded in Kuwait as Mobile Telecommunications Company was later rebranded to Zain in 2007.
Currently, the company has a presence in eight countries across the MENA region with 45.6 million active customers as of Sept. 2015.
18. Agility (1979)
Agility started as a state-owned Kuwaiti company as Public Warehousing Co. In 2006, the company unified its services under the new name of Agility with the brand slogan "A New Logistics Leader."